Self-care is all the rage nowadays. We all desire health and happiness for ourselves. But what if the best form of self-care is mutual-caring?
Have you ever wondered if there was one thing you could focus on to really take care of your health and happiness? If you have and you’re anything like me, you may be thinking along the line of regular exercise or eating a healthy diet. Many other persons might say that the secret to happiness is wealth or fame or living a fun-filled. Well, it might surprise you that none of these THINGS may be the secret to health and happiness.
The Harvard Medical School has been conducting a study on adult development for the past 80 years. This is perhaps the longest-running study on happiness. In it, researchers closely followed (and continue to follow) the lives of hundreds of different people of various social and economic backgrounds.
The study began in 1938. Most of the initial participants in the study have died and many new participants have since been included along the way. But over time, the researchers have been able to collect all kinds of useful health information. They even regularly interviewed the participants themselves and their family members to get information about their lives and their mental and emotional wellness. And this one of a kind study has uncovered some very interesting things about us as humans. Here are three things that this study uncovered:
- Loneliness kills
Apparently, stress isn’t the only feeling that kills. People who are more socially connected to family, friends, and community are happier and are also physically healthier. They live longer than persons who are less connected to others. In fact, the experience of loneliness turns out to be deadly. People who feel isolated from others find that they are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely.
- Quality over Quantity
It isn’t that important to be popular. Health and happiness doesn’t depend on the number of friends you have or whether or not you’re in a committed relationship. It’s the quality of your close relationships that matters. High conflict relationships are actually very bad for our health. While good, warm relationships protect and preserve us. The study revealed that for participants when they were at age 50, the number one predictor of how they were going to age wasn’t their cholesterol but rather how satisfied they were in their relationships. In other words, the people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.
- Body and Brain
Good relationships protect not just our bodies; they also protect our brains. Being in dependable relationships later in life is protective of our brains. It was found that the memories of persons in secure relationships stay sharper for longer. And the people who feel they can’t count on their loved ones experienced earlier memory decline.
So in a nutshell, what did the longest study on happiness find? That the secret to health and happiness may be good relationships. Embracing community helps us live longer, and be happier. But when you think about it, this isn’t really a secret or something brand new to our knowledge. We always knew that we are social and emotional creatures. We are made for community. We often say, “no man is an island” right?
The real revelation for me is just how supremely important good relationships are for our health and happiness. Good relationship is literally life! It’s a bit surprising then that so many of us in the world neglect and even sacrifice it in pursuit of money, career, and other things. As this study highlights, PEOPLE more than things make us happy and healthy. I think I need to go give my Mother a hug now.
If you would like to get more information on this happiness study, check out the links below.
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I wish you every success in life and the pursuit of your passions and purpose.